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such circumstances of misrule, from sinking into a bar-
barism like that of Turkey. A sense of better things was

• Sir William Hamilton's letters give the history of one of this
sovereign's campaigns against the wolves and boars. "Our first chase
has not succeeded ; the king would direct how we should beat the
wood, and began at the wrong end, by which the wolves and boars
escaped. The king's face is very long at this moment, but I dare say
tomorrow's good sport will shorten it again." — "No sport again ! He
has no other comfort today, than having killed a wild cat, and his face
is a yard long. However, his Majesty has vowed vengeance on the
boars tomorrow, and will go according to his own fancy ; and I dare
say there will be a terrible slaughter." — "Today has been so thoroughly
bad that we have not been able to stir out, and the King, of course, is
in bad humor." — "The king has killed twenty-one boars today, and is
quite happy." — "We have had a miserable cold day, but good sport.
I killed two boars and a doe ; the king nineteen boars, two does, and
a porcupine. He is happy beyond expression." — "Only think of his not
being satisfied with killing more than thirty yesterday ! He said, if
the wind had favored him, he should have killed sixty at least." —
"The King has killed eighty-one animals of one sort or other today, and
amongst them a wolf and some stags. He fell asleep in the coach ;
and, waking, told me he had been dreaming of shooting. One would
have thought he had shed blood enough." — "It is a long-faced day with
the King. We went far ; the weather was bad ; and after all, met with
little or no game. Yesterday, when we brought home all we killed, it
filled the house completely, and today they are obliged to whitewash
the walls to take away the blood. There were more than four hundred
boars, deer, stags, and all. Tomorrow we are to have another slaughter ;
and not a word of reason or common-sense do I meet with the whole
day, till I retire to my volumes of the old Gentleman's Magazine, which
just keeps my mind from starving." — Southey's Note.



196 The Life of Nelson

kept alive in some of the Neapolitans by literature, and
by their intercourse with happier countries. These per-
sons naturally looked to France, at the commencement
of the revolution; and, during all the horrors of that
revolution, still cherished a hope, that by the aid of
France, they might be enabled to establish a new order of
things in Naples. They were grievously mistaken in
supposing that the principles of liberty would ever be
supported by France, but they were not mistaken in be-
lieving that no government could be worse th'an their
own; and, therefore, they considered any change* as de-
sirable. In this opinion men of the most different char-
acters agreed. Many of the nobles, who were not in
favor, wished for a revolution, that they might obtain
the ascendancy to which they thought themselves en-
titled : men of desperate fortunes desired it, in the hope
of enriching themselves; knaves and intriguers sold
themselves to the French, to promote it; and a few en-
lightened men, and true lovers of their country, joined
in the same cause, from the purest and noblest motives.
All these were confounded under the common name of
Jacobins ; and the Jacobins of the Continental kingdoms
were regarded by the English with more hatred than
they deserved. They were classed with Philippe Egalite,
Marat, and Hebert ;^ — whereas they deserved rather to be
ranked, if not with Locke, and Sydney, and Russell, at
least with Argyle and Monmouth,^ and those who, having

1. Egalite, Marat, and Hebert. These were among the more radical
French republicans. Philippe Egalite, though a Bourbon prince, voted
for the execution of Louis XVI. His son Louis Philippe was king of
France from 1830 to 1848.

2. Locke and Sydney, and Russell, etc. The English philosopher
John Locke (1632-1704) accepted the principle that the authority of
kings rests on the consent of the people, and that rebellion against
a tyrant is justified. William Sydney and Algernon Russell were
Englishmen of high character and ideals, beheaded for alleged com-
plicity in the Rye-House Plot (1683) against Charles II. The Earl



The Life of Nelson 197

the same object as tiie prime movers of our own revolu-
tion, failed in their premature, but not Linworthy
attempt.

No circumstances could be more unfavorable to the
best interests of Europe, than those which placed Eng-
land in strict alliance with the superannuated^ and abom-
inable governments of the Continent. The subjects of
those governments who wished for freedom thus became
enemies to England, and dupes and agents of France.
They looked to their own grinding grievances, and did
not see the danger with which the liberties of the world
were threatened: England, on the other hand, saw the
danger in its true magnitude, but was blind to these
grievances,, and found herself compelled to support sys-
tems which had formerly been equally the object of her
abhorrence and her contempt. This was the state of
Nelson's mind: he knew that there could be no peace for
Europe till the pride of France was humbled, and her
strength broken; and he regarded all those who were
the friends of France as traitors to the common cause,
as well as to their own individual sovereigns. There are
situations in which the most opposite and hostile parties
may mean equally well, and yet act equally wrong. The
court of Naples, unconscious of committing any crime
by continuing the system of misrule to which they had
succeeded, conceived that, in maintaining things as they
were, they were maintaining their own rights, and pre-
serving the people from such horrors as had been perpe-
trated in France. The Neapolitan revolutionists thought
that, without a total change of system, any relief from

of Argyle and the Duke of Monmouth, the latter an illegitimate son
of Charles II, were Whig leaders who failed in an insurrection against
James II (1685).

1. Superannuated. The revolutions of 1640 and 1688 gave to Eng-
land political reforms that did not reach the Continent till after the
French Revolution.



198 The Life of Nelson

the present evils was impossible, and they believed them-
selves justified in bringing about that change by any
means. Both parties knew that it was the fixed intention
of the French to revolutionize Naples. The revolution-
ists supposed that it was for the purpose of establishing
. a free government : the court, and all disinterested per-
sons, were perfectly aware that the enemy had no other
object than conquest and plunder.

The battle of the Nile shook the power of France. Her
most successful general, and her finest army, were blocked
up in Egypt — hopeless, as it appeared, of return ; and the
government was in the hands of men without talents,
without character, and divided among themselves. Aus-
tria, whom Bonaparte had terrified into a peace, at a
time when constancy on her part would probably have
led to his destruction, took advantage of the crisis to
renew the war. Eussia also was preparing to enter the
field with unbroken forces ; led by a general^ whose extra-
ordinary military genius would have entitled him to a
high and honorable rank in history, if it had not been
sullied by all the ferocity of a barbarian. Naples, seeing
its destruction at hand, and thinking that the only means
of averting it was by meeting the danger, after long vacil-
lations, which were produced by the fears, and weakness,
and treachery of its council, agreed at last to join this
new coalition, with a numerical force of 80,000 men.
Nelson told the King, in plain terms, that he had his
choice, either to advance, trusting to God for His bless-
ing on a just cause, and prepared to die sword in hand —
or to remain quiet, and be kicked out of his kingdom: —
one of these things must happen. The King made answer,
he would go on and trust in God and Nelson : and Nelson,

1. A general. The Russian field-marshal, Alexander Suvarof (1729-
1800), remarkable for his victories in Turkey and Poland. His conduct
of war was marked by unusual cruelty.



The Life of Nelson 199

who would else have returned to Egypt, for the purpose
of destroying the French shipping in Alexandria, gave
up his intention, at the desire of the Neapolitan court,
and resolved to remain on that station, in the hope that
he might be useful to the movements of the army. He
suspected also, with reason, that the continuance of his
fleet was so earnestly requested, because the royal family
thought their persons would be safer, in case of any
mishap, under the British flag, than under their own.

His first object was the recovery of Malta — an island
which the King of Naples pretended to claim. The Mal-
tese, whom the villainous Knights of their order^ had
betrayed to France, had taken up arms against their rapa-
cious invaders, with a spirit and unanimity worthy the
highest praise. They blockaded the French garrison by
land, and a small squadron, under Captain Ball, began to
blockade them by sea, on the 12th of October. Twelve
days afterwards Nelson arrived. ''It is as I suspected,"
he says: "the ministers at Naples know nothing of the
situation of the island. Not a house or bastion of the
town is in possession of the islanders ; and the Marquis de
Niza tells us, they want arms, victuals, and support. He
does not know that any Neapolitan officers are in the
island; perhaps, although I have their names, none are
arrived ; and it is very certain, by the marquis ' account,
that no supplies have been sent by the governors of Syra-
cuse or Messina." The little island of Gozo, dependent
upon Malta, which had also been seized and garrisoned by
the French, capitulated soon after his arrival, and was
taken possession of by the British, in the name of his
'Sicilian Majesty— a power who had no better claim to it

1. Knights of their order. The Order of the Knights of Malta, or
Hospitalers of St. John of Jerusalem, was founded during the first
crusade (about 1099) and received Malta from Charles V in 1530.
Napoleon secured the surrender of the island by intrigue with French
members of the order. See p. 160.



200 The Life of Nelson

than France. Having seen this effected, and reinforced
Captain Ball, he left that able officer to perform a most
arduous and important part, and returned himself to co-
operate with the intended movements of the Neapolitans.

General Mack^ was at the head of the Neapolitan
troops : — all that is now doubtful concerning this man
is whether he was a coward or a traitor. At that time
he was assiduously extolled as a most consummate com-
mander, to whom Europe might look for deliverance : and
when he was introduced by the King and Queen to the
British Admiral, the Queen said to him, ''Be to us by
land, General, what my hero Nelson has been by sea."
Mack, on his part, did not fail to praise the force which
he was appointed to command. ''It was," he said, "the
finest army in Europe." Nelson agreed with him, that
there could not be finer men : but when the General, at
a review, so directed the operations of a mock fight, that,
by an unhappy blunder, his own troops were surrounded
instead of those of the enemy, he turned to his friends
and exclaimed, with bitterness, that the fellow did not
understand his business. Another circumstance, not less
characteristic, confirmed Nelson in his judgment. ' ' Gen-
eral Mack, ' ' said he, in one of his letters, ' ' cannot move
without five carriages! I have formed my opinion. I
heartily pray I may be mistaken."

While Mack, at the head of 32,000 men, marched into
the Roman state, 5000 Neapolitans were embarked on
board the British and Portuguese squadron, to take pos-
session of Leghorn. This was effected without opposi-
tion ; and the Grand Duke of Tuscany, whose neutrality

1. General Mack. The Austrian field-marshal, Karl Mack von
Lelberich (1752-1822). He was captured in the 1798 campaign, after-
ward escaped, and surrendered an Austrian army to Napoleon at Ulm
(1805). His failure in Italy Is by modern authorities attributed
rather to the character of his troops than to his own inability or
treachery.



The Life of Nelson 201

had been so outrageously violated by the French, was
better satisfied with the measure than some of the Neapoli-
tans themselves. Naselli, their General, refused to seize
the French vessels at Leghorn, because he and the Duke
di Sangro, who was ambassador at the Tuscan court,
maintained that the King of Naples was not at war with
France. ''What!" said Nelson, ''has not the King re-
ceived, as a conquest made by him, the republican flag
taken at Gozo ? Is not his own flag flying there, and at
Malta, not only by his permission, but by his order ? Is
not his flag shot at every day by the French, and their
shot returned from batteries which bear that flag ? Are
not two frigates and a corvette placed under my orders
ready to fight the French, meet them where they may?
Has not the King sent publicly from Naples guns, mor-
tars, etc., with officers and artillery, against the French
in Malta ? If these acts are not tantamount to any writ-
ten paper, I give up all knowledge of what is war."
This reasoning was of less avail than argument addressed
to the General's fears. Nelson told him, that if he per-
mitted the many hundred French who were in the mole
to remain neutral, till they had a fair opportunity of
being active, they had one sure resource, if all other
schemes failed, which was, to set one vessel on fire ; the
mole would be destroyed, probably the town also ; and the
port ruined for twenty years. This representation made
Naselli agree to the half measure of laying an embargo
on the vessels. Among them were a great number of
French privateers, some of which were of such force as
to threaten the greatest mischief to our commerce, and
about seventy sail of vessels belonging to the Ligurian
Republic, as Genoa was now called, laden with corn,
and ready to sail for Genoa and France; where their
arrival would have expedited the entrance of more
French troops into Italy. "The General," said Nelson,



202 The Life of Nelson

'^saw, I believe, the consequence of permitting these ves-
sels to depart in the same light as myself: but there is
this difference between us — he prudently, and certainly
safely, waits the orders of his court, taking no responsi-
bility upon himself ; I act from the circumstances of the
moment, as I feel may be the most advantageous for the
cause which I serve, taking all responsibility on myself. ' '
It was in vain to hope for anything vigorous or manly
from such men as Nelson was compelled to act with. The
crews of the French ships and their allies were ordered
to depart in two days. Four days elapsed, and nobody
obeyed the order; nor, in spite of the representations
of the British Minister, Mr. Wyndham, were any means
taken to enforce it : — the true Neapolitan shuffle, as Nel-
son called it, took place on all occasions. After an ab-
sence of ten days, he returned to Naples: and receiving
intelligence there, from Mr. Wyndham, that the priva-
teers were at last to be disarmed, the corn landed, and
the crews sent away, he expressed his satisfaction at the
news in characteristic language, saying, "So far I am
content. The enemy will be distressed; and, thank God,
I shall get no money. The world, I know, think that
money is our God ; and now they will be undeceived, as
far as relates to us. Down, down with the French I is
my constant prayer. ' '

Odes, sonnets, and congratulatory poems, of every de-
scription, were poured in upon Nelson, on his arrival at
Naples. An Irish Franciscan, who was one of the poets,
not being content with panegyric, upon this occasion
ventured upon a flight of prophecy, and predicted that
Lord Nelson would take Rome with his ships. His lord-
ship reminded Father M'Cormick that ships could not
ascend the Tiber : but the father, who had probably for-
gotten this circumstance, met the objection with a bold
front, and declared he saw that it would come to pass not-



The Life of Nelson 203

withstanding. Rejoicings of this kind were of short dura-
tion. The King of Naples was with the army which had
entered Rome ; but the castle of St. Angelo was held by
the French, and 13^000 French were strongly posted in
the Roman states at Castellana. Mack had marched
against them with 20,000 men. Nelson saw that the event
was doubtful ; — or rather, that there could be very little
hope of the result. But the immediate fate of Naples,
as he well knew, hung upon the issue, *'If Mack is de-
feated, ' ' said he, ' ' in fourteen days this country is lost ;
for the Emperor^ has not yet moved his army, and Naples
has not the power of resisting the enemy. It was not a
case for choice, but of necessity, which induced the King
to march out of his kingdom, and not wait till the French
had collected a force sufficient to drive him out of it in a
week. ' ' He had no reliance upon the Neapolitan officers ;
who, as he described them, seemed frightened at a drawn
sword or a loaded gun ; and he was perfectly aware of the
consequences which the sluggish movements and deceitful
policy of the Austrians were likely to bring down upon
themselves, and all their Continental allies. '*A delayed
war, on the part of the Emperor," said he, writing to the
British Minister at Vienna, 'Vill be destructive to this
monarchy of Naples; and, of course, to the newly-ac-
quired dominions of the Emperor in Italy. Had the war
commenced in September or October, all Italy would, at
this moment, have been liberated. This month is worse
than the last : the next will render the contest doubtful :
and, in six months, when the Neapolitan Republic will be
organized, armed, and with its numerous resources called
forth, the Emperor will not only be defeated in Italy, but
will totter on his throne at Vienna. Down, down with
the French! ought to be written in the council-room of
every country in the world : and may Almighty God give

l: Emperor. Francis II of Austria.



204 The Life of Nelson

right thoughts to every sovereign, is my constant
prayer!" His perfect foresight of the immediate event
was clearly shown in this letter, when he desired the am-
bassador to assure the Empress (who was a daughter
of the house of Naples) that, notwithstanding the coun-
cils which had shaken the throne of her father and
mother, he would remain there, ready to save their per-
sons, and her brothers and sisters ; and that he had also
left ships ct Leghorn, to save the lives of the grand duke
and her sister: ''For all," said he, ''must be a republic,
if the Emperor does not act with expedition and vigor."
His fears were soon verified. "The Neapolitan offi-
cers," said Nelson, "did not lose much honor, for, God
knows, they had not much to lose ; — but they lost all they
had." General St. Philip commanded the right wing,
of 19,000 men. He fell in with 3,000 of the enemy;
and, as soon as he came near enough, deserted to them.
One of his men had virtue enough to level a musket at
him, and shot him through the arm ; but the wound was
not sufficient to prevent him from joining with the
French in pursuit of his own countrymen. Cannon,
tents, baggage, and military chest were all forsaken by
the runaways, though they lost only forty men; for the
French, having put them to flight, and got possession of
everything, did not pursue an army of more than three
times their own number. The main body of the Neapoli-
tans, under Mack, did not behave better. The King re-
turned to Naples; where every day brought with it the
tidings of some new disgrace from the army, and the
discovery of some new treachery at home ; till four days
after his return, the General sent him advice, that there
was no prospect of stopping the progress of the enemy,
and that the royal family must look to their own personal
safety. The state of the public mind at Naples was such,
at this time, that neither the British Minister nor the



The Life of Nelson 205

British Admiral tliought it prudent to appear at court.
Their motions were watched ; and the revolutionists had
even formed a plan for seizing and detaining them as
hostages, to prevent any attack on the city after the
French should have taken possesion of it, A letter,
which Nelson addressed at this time to the First Lord
of the Admiralty, shows in what manner he contemplated
the possible issue of the storm. It was in these words : —
"^My dear^Lord, — There is an old saying, that when
things are at the worst they must mend : — now the mind
of man cannot fancy things worse than they are here.
But, thank God ! my health is better, my mind never
firmer, and my heart in the right trim to comfort, re-
lieve, and protect those whom it is my duty to afford
assistance to. Pray, my lord, assure our gracious sov-
ereign that, while I live, I will support his glory: and
that, if I fall, it shall be__in a manner worthy of your
lordship's faithful and obliged Nelson. I must not write,
more. Every word may be a text for a long letter. ' '

Meantime Lady Hamilton arranged everything for the
removal of the royal family. This was conducted, on her
part, with the greatest address, and without suspicion, be-
cause she had been in habits of constant correspondence
with the Queen. It was known that the removal could not
be effected without danger; for the mob, and especially
the lazzarcni, were attached to the King : and as, at this
time, they felt a natural presumption in their own num-
bers and strength, they insisted that he should not leave
Naples. Several persons fell victims to their fury : among
others was a messenger from Vienna, whose body was
dragged under the windows of the palace in the King's
sight. The King and Queen spoke to the mob, and paci-
fied them ; but it would not have been safe, while they
were in this agitated state, to have embarked the effects
of the royal family openly. Lady Hamilton, like a



206 The Life of Nelson

heroine of modern romance, explored, with no little
danger, a subterraneous passage, leading from the palace
to the seaside : through this passage the royal treasures,
the choicest pieces of painting and sculpture, and other
property, to the amount of two millions and a half, were
conveyed to the shore, and stowed safely on board the
English ships. On the night of the 21st, at half-past
eight, Nelson landed, brought out the whole royal family,
embarked them in three barges, and carried them safely,
through a tremendous sea, to the Vanguard. Notice was
then immediately given to the British merchants, that
they would be received on board any ship in the squad-
ron. Their property had previously been embarked in
transports. Two days were passed in the Bay, for the
purpose of taking such persons on board as required an
asylum ; and, on the night of the 23d, the fleet sailed. The
next day a more violent storm arose than Nelson had
ever before encountered. On the 25th, the youngest of
the princes was taken ill, and died in Lady Hamilton's
arms. During this whole trying season, Lady Hamilton
waited upon the royal family with the zeal of the most
devoted servant, at a time when, except one man, no
person belonging to the court assisted them.

On the morning of the 26th, the royal family were
landed at Palermo. It was soon seen that their flight had
not been premature. Prince Pignatelli, who had been left
as vicar-general and viceroy, with orders to defend the
kingdom to the last rock in Calabria,^ sent plenipotentia-
ries to the French camp before Capua ; and they, for the
sake of saving the capital, signed an armistice, by which
the greater part of the kingdom was given up to the
enemy: a cession that necessarily led to the loss of the
whole. This was on the 10th of January. The French
advanced toward Naples. Mack, under pretext of taking

1. Calabria. A district at the southern extremity or "toe" of Italy.



The Life of Nelson 207

shelter from the fury of the lazzaroni, fled to the French
General Championet, who sent him under an escort to
Milan : but as France hoped for further services from this
wretched traitor, it was thought prudent to treat him ap-
parently as a prisoner of war. The Neapolitan army
disappeared in a few days : of the men, some, following
their officers, deserted to the enemy : the greater part took
the opportunity of disbanding themselves. The lazzaroni
proved true to their country : they attacked the enemy 's
advanced posts, drove them in, and were not dispirited



Online LibraryRobert SoutheySouthey's Life of Nelson → online text (page 16 of 29)